The Arab Revolution and Anti-Imperialism

By Daniel Renwick

Tunisia falls. Egypt falls. Anti-imperialism gets a shot in the arm. Ben-Ali and Mubarak, who for decades acted as nothing but Western stooges, are forced from power and the global order trembles. Cracks emerge under our feet and we all wonder; what next? We are too close to these events to truly realise their magnitude. However, what must be made emphatically clear is that the global order stands or falls with the Pan-Arab revolution. The fighting in the Arab street is a transnational fight of epic proportions. While it is a fight for dignity, a fight for rights and a fight for fairness – these battles cannot be pitched without truly knowing one’s enemy – the forces of empire.

While major encouragement can be found looking down the Arab street, forces of subversion have been in play from the very start. Variables are not liked by the powers that be. That is why they arm these military strong men instead of empowering democratic forces. Democratic structures always pose a risk for empire. As Haiti in 1990 showed, when Aristide stood at the last minute and stole the election from America’s choice Marc Bazin. The law of the unintended consequence explains why the West wouldn’t destabilise supportive regimes as they stand to lose more than they can gain. However, once the wheels of history start turning, their age old motto kicks in: “reform to conserve”. What are a few concessions if the general order is maintained? Procedures of containment have come into effect and seem to be working. So much so, they are making audacious and aggressive moves in Libya and Algeria – with Syria and Iran back on the table.

As far as the “International community" is concerned – the main objectives of the uprisings in North Africa are Western democratic models and "dignity" – an extension of the consequence of the “end of history”. So far, among the people’s revolutionaries, vigilance against imperial forces has come secondary to overthrowing the dictators. However, the government brutality and politics of fear that have defined the Arab street for the last century will not be confined to history unless to galvanised masses destroy the intelligence infrastructures of their countries and confront the military elites, which in the case of Egypt is a clash with the Pentagon. As things stand, the people are in grave danger as the old guard remain embedded both within executive and military structures and they will do everything in their power to crush the momentum of the people.

Disturbingly, we are witnessing a depreciation of the very meaning of ‘revolution’. The overthrow of a dictator is a wonderful move in the emancipation of a people, but if the regime stands, the uprising is momentary and general stability is maintained. Revolutions are achieved by rupturing the system and destroying its components. This has yet to materialise, though we should not doubt that the will is there, active and continuous.

It is very difficult to look at events in the Middle East and comment critically. When we point a finger, three are pointing back at us, especially if we reside in the West. We deplore Gaddafi but train his army and supply his weapons. Our government’s support the will of the people in overthrowing Gaddafi as it is the removal of a 42 year old hindrance, for empire. Unlike Mubarak and Ben Ali, Gaddafi has a deep and antagonistic relationship with the forces that are now circling. NATO do not care of his brutality. Do not be fooled. The “International community” is listening far more to the executives of BP than it is to the citizens of Benghazi. Our governments, as ever, use the discourse of human rights to latch on to a country’s infrastructure, undermine it, and suck it dry; killing with kindness.

If the vast gas and oil supplies of North Africa are brought under the umbrella of empire, the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) is back on track after a series of losses. PNAC old guard have come on in full support of full US military intervention against Gaddafi. The “crazies”, as they were referred to, remain deluded that the US has the economic capabilities to engage in another conflict while they are being bled dry in the war of attrition in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, support of opposition groups, fuelling of civil war and encouraging the involvement of International organisations or foreign armies is very much on the cards. The vultures are circling and subversive forces are in play. Gaddafi’s regime has all but collapsed and the Libyans face a far more treacherous enemy.   
No one should doubt the Arab revolutionary fervour. The heart of this pan-Arab resurgence is Palestine. And I do not doubt that the consequences of these uprisings will see Zionism destroyed in the next 15 years. Yet, in the short-term, without the revolutions being militantly anti-imperialist a lot hangs in the balance. Without nefarious forces being driven out – Arab’s are fighting for the will of empire, which will become all more apparent as time goes on. The stakes are very high and for the first time since these uprisings started, I worry about who will benefit.
The tide of Arab uprisings has led to complacency in the thinking of the vast majority, at the very least. Many are alert as to what they are doing and that is aligning with empire to remove a “greater evil”. However, there is no greater evil. There is no greater reason for Arab suffering since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. It needs to be known, far and wide, empire is not needed and not welcome.

The oppressed of the Arab street bear the scars of their oppression. Their chains shall be broken and their torturers brought to justice. No one should undermine the right of the people to exercise their autonomy and new found freedom. However, those outside of this situation have a role to play which is not hysteric support for the revolutionaries of other countries. The Arab’s are fighting a battle which changes the world, but they are not fighting it for us, especially if all we do is contort their struggle and trivialise their actions to being the outcome of social networks. This is not the “facebook revolution”, it is not merely for West liberalism, nor is it a fight to line the pockets of oil executives and feed the West’s addiction to oil. This is a fight for self-determination and true emancipation. The struggle has emphatically begun, the revolution is just beginning.

Right now, our governments are manoeuvring to perpetuate Arab suffering under a more sophisticated cloak. Counter-revolutionary operations are advanced and manipulation is rife. Those with critical distance should act to prevent them at all costs. Responsibility beckons for those in the belly of the beast. If we want to show solidarity, we must fight the greater battle, which starts on the streets of London – not Tripoli.

– Daniel Renwick is a London-based political analyst, runs the Straight Talk blog. This article was contributed to Contact him at:

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